“Thanks for what?”

“…although they knew God,
they neither glorified him as God
nor gave thanks to him…”
Romans 1:21 (NIV)

Imagine for a moment walking through a field in the country with someone and suddenly coming across a shiny big Hummer truck loaded with options. Both you and your friend are stunned as there is no road or even tire tracks to explain how it got there. How might it have come to be there?

Then your friend makes a remarkable suggestion. He says, “I think it just happened out of nothing. I don’t think anyone drove it here, it just came into existence from nothing.” What would you say to your friend? Would you question their intelligence? Would you ask yourself—what is he smoking?

Well, you certainly would be in order to doubt his intelligence or else his sanity. Nothing cannot create anything.

Normal, thinking people recognize that for something to exist in time and space it must have a cause. Nothing is not a cause for anything. To suggest a car can suddenly come from nowhere is absurd.

Yet as we look at the universe around us with its beauty, remarkable laws governing it, and the power and energy it possesses, it is certainly unbelievably more complex that a car, even if it is a Hummer truck. Why do people insist that the world just happened without a cause? What fuels their drive to evangelize common people into the persuasion that there is no Creator or Cause for what we see around us?

For those who have problems in life and nothing seems to make sense in their situation, looking at the world around us and seeking the remarkable symmetry and order of everything can be a source of great comfort. My little world may be chaotic but the universe speaks of grandeur and wonderful organization. Somehow this can be helpful to us.

When God came to His servant Job in the horrors of Job’s misery it is fascinating that—while God did not explain to Job the why’s and wherefore’s of his suffering—God did point Job to the symmetry and organization of creation.

It seems that Job was to recognize that in God’s way of running the vast universe—there really is purpose to it all.

When we find ourselves overcome with the strain of living in chaos, it is then that we ought to look at the amazing world around us.

Consider the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, observe the glory of the fall colors, look up at the stars shining at night and wonder who hung them all in space. Creation is so beautiful and organized that we are without excuse if we succumb to the notion that life is meaningless.

Are you able to lift your eyes to the heavens and see the glory of the Creator? Can you hear the songbirds singing the praise of their Creator?

Will you speak to the One who has put everything in its place and ask for the grace you need for the next step in life? He waits for you to call. He has promised to answer. God speaks in creation, listen and give thanks and ask for the needed help for the problems you face in life.

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Praying when you don’t know how

“Lord, the one you love is sick.”
John 11:3 (NIV)

One of the simplest, yet most complex spiritual exercises we can engage in is prayer. A child of 3-4 years may compose a wonderful prayer to their Creator while a saint of God in their mature years may be at a loss of words concerning how to pray for a specific issue.

What are we to do when we have no idea what God is doing with us or a loved one but we are so concerned that somehow He intervened in the situation. Occasionally I am asked to pray for a person’s situation and I am at a loss about how to ask for something specific for the one in need.

The men who approached Jesus at the beginning of John 11 brought Him a message, or a prayer if you will. In any event Jesus was the One the sisters of the desperately ill man wanted to know about their burden. This message to Jesus was clearly full of faith but lacked a focus. It is not a request for anything and yet it implies everything.

What the sisters did was merely to inform Jesus of their heartache at the extreme illness of their beloved brother Lazarus. This then is how to pray when you do not know what to ask for in prayer. Simply tell the Lord what is breaking your heart. Advise Him of the seriousness of the issue.

All the fearful sisters of Lazarus did was to give Jesus information about the problem. In faith they left it to Him to do as He thought best in the situation. They knew that Jesus healed people at a distance, they heard of Him raising some from the dead, it is also most likely that they had heard of how He spoke and the weather changed. Jesus was the Man for the hour and they knew it.

Sadly for them, Jesus let the situation continue until Lazarus not only died but was buried. Only then did He come to the scene that was now mourning over the dead, not weeping at suffering. Lazarus’ heart had stopped beating but their hearts lived to break with sorrow.

Jesus did come to the scene of mourning after a few days which seemed an eternity to the weeping sisters. As Jesus came near the town where they lived Martha ran to meet Him with the words

“If you had been here my brother would not have died.”
(John 11:21 NIV)

It is a word of faith in Jesus because she knew He would have cured Lazarus.

Why Jesus waited to come until after Lazarus died is remarkable. He is only weeks away from His own death and it seems He wished to demonstrate once more that He has authority over our greatest enemy, death. He also wished to prove the worth of the name He gives Himself when He spoke to Martha. He said to her He was the Resurrection and the Life. Raising Lazarus proved that He was well named.

Jesus is indeed all powerful. He may not solve your problem with the speed you wish, however, He will indeed make all of His people victorious in the end. The problems you face will someday disappear and you will celebrate as Martha did when Jesus visited her house of mourning and turned it into a house of joy.

If you walk with Jesus, be assured that the way will soon be easy and the burden of life will be gone when Jesus comes to take you to Himself forever. Remember always that the long term view puts the short term problems into perspective. Jesus is worth the wait. So pray even when you don’t know what to say.

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Hopeless or full of hope?

“On him we have set our hope
that he will continue to deliver us…”
2 Corinthians 1:10

When a book has gone through 73 printings in English in less than 40 years selling almost 2 ½ million copies, and been translated into 19 other languages you must admit it has something going for it. Such is the story of Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. The first portion of the book deals with the horrors he experienced during several years in a Nazi death camp.

Dr. Frankl had trained as a psychiatrist and neurologist and practiced for some years before entering the death camps as a Jewish prisoner. In Man’s Search for Meaning, he tells the reason why a man who appeared to be as healthy as one could be—under such dire circumstances—could one day lie down and die in 48 hours. It actually happened to one of the men he knew when he gave up any hope of release from the camp.

Hope is certainly a most profound factor in people being able to cope with their tragedies in life. A hope that sustains in crisis is necessary for being able to bear up under pain and sorrow. The Bible’s most haunting description of those who turn from their Creator is found in the Apostle Paul’s words, in Ephesians 2:12 (NIV).

“…without hope and without God in the world.”

God is called the “God of hope” in Romans 15:13. In 1 Timothy 1:1 Jesus our Lord is called our hope. Paul the Apostle refers to how Christians look for “that blessed hope” Titus 2:1—and by this He means Jesus’ second coming. The world celebrates His first coming in so many ways, yet it is Jesus’ second coming that brings the heart the greatest joy and eager expectation.

Celebrate Jesus’ first coming Christians—with much happiness, singing, and feasting. You will never come close to the amazing glory and festivities that will be the Christian’s at Jesus’ second coming.

Reader, do you know this hope? Is Jesus your hope? Or do you look at your future as nothing but endless pain and sorrow? Is your only hope that death will conclude your existence of tragedy and sorrow? Will you not come to this Jesus, the hope of His people, and call to Him in prayer for the help you need for today and the wonderful prospect of being with Him forever?

Jesus waits for you to hope in Him for all your needs today and forever. Will you pray to Him and seek the blessing of eternal life He so freely offers to all? Why not seek Him, and seek Him today?

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“Why Mommy, why Daddy?”

“Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully…”
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

It seems the work of a lifetime to understand how our children are wired. I had a wonderful time raising my two boys and seeking to help them learn all they could about the amazing world in which we live. One son was most interested in human biology and the other in computer sciences.

Then—when I married a younger widow with three small children in midlife—I looked forward to engaging their young minds in creation as well. Now I am seeking to get good literature on the world around us for my grandchildren to read so they too can marvel at what God has made for us, and to give them further reasons to worship Him as I do.

As every adult knows, children have a special capacity to drive adults insane with the seemingly endless repetition of the question, “Why?” We can soon wish them to go away quietly and leave us alone. We must learn that this is just the way they are wired. Their minds are hungry for knowledge and if we do not help them find answers they may go to sources we may not appreciate for answers.

As adults we usually still have a desire for information as we journey through life.  Possibly we do not wish to know the results of certain tests when we visit the doctor’s office. But the results of a certain test may be very happy news especially when they are negative.

Just like children, we adults may ask the question “Why?” at times in life. Sometimes when we search for information to troubling issues we are confronted with silence. Why is there so much suffering, so much pain, so much loneliness in the world around us. No one seems to hold the answer.

In the Bible we learn right up front that God did not make the world full of suffering, sorrow and death. Something happened that we usually call “the fall” to cause the perfect creation to have death written all over it. Our first parents—Adam and Eve—rebelled against God and suddenly the world began to decay and die as God pronounced a curse on it. That is the bad news about suffering. It all started with the first people in the world.

Now for the Good News. At the same time that God added the element of disorder into the world, He also spoke a word of hope and encouragement. He promised that One would come to redeem fallen humanity and restore what Adam and Eve lost. All through the Old Testament more and more detail is given about the Coming One God promised.

The remarkable message of the New Testament is that Jesus fulfils all the Old Testament prophecies of the promised Messiah. He came to pay for the sins of His people and to provide them with an endless future with Him in a recreated world that will never again decay. His work in this world 2,000 years ago has results that last forever. That is God’s promise to all who follow Jesus.

However, God does not give us all the answers today concerning the suffering in this world. He calls on His people to trust Him today for all the answers He will give us when we see Him. That is what our verse for today is all about. Will you trust the One who sent His well loved Son into our world to pay the price for sin? Do you believe He is worthy of our trust? I believe He deserves our trust and I urge you to come to Him today and put all your back-breaking cares on Him. He really cares for sinners like you and me.

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A storm, a cleft in a rock, and a playing card

“…they hid among the rocks”
1 Samuel 13:6 (NIV)

One of the truly great hymn writers of the Christian church was Augustus Toplady (1740-1778). He was an Anglican priest and apparently had a remarkable experience one day as he was travelling and a violent rain storm occurred.

Toplady took refuge in a cleft of a rock along the way and it provided him with some shelter from the fury of the storm. While waiting out the storm from his place of safety some thoughts came to mind of how God is a rock and shelters His people from the storms of life.

Then he started to form a poem in his mind. It seems a playing card was on the ground near his feet and he took it up and wrote the verse that he had composed. It was thought that it was published just 3 years before his death and 12 years after it’s composition.

Read the lines of the first verse of this hymn:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

In the years since his hymn was written countless thousands of people have taken comfort from this prayer to Jesus and have sung or recited these words to bring peace to their hearts in tragic situations.

Apparently William Gladstone, former Prime Minister of England, had this hymn sung at his funeral in Westminster Abbey. Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of England died at the young age of 42. As he lay dying he had this hymn, Rock of Ages, sung to him.

In many Scriptures God is called a Rock (e.g. Psalm 18:295:1) Also Jesus, our Lord is called the Rock (e.g. 1 Corinthians10:4) So God takes to Himself the thought of people finding security and refuge in Him who is as solid as a rock.

It can be remarkably comforting to consider the Rocky Mountains in Canada or the Alps in Switzerland and meditate on how stable and unmoveable they are. Then transfer that thought to the God who made everything and how stable and unmovable He is for all who seek refuge in Him.

Have you ever prayed the verses of this hymn Rock of Ages? The words are a most magnificent call to Jesus to be everything to us in the storms of life. Are you hiding yourself in the Rock today?

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